This week, a great music venue/bar/café in Birmingham closed its doors. Bottletree is gone, and judging by the myriad tributes on social media, we’re all going to miss it.
It’s really beautiful to see so many people posting about what Bottletree has meant to them. It represents the very best of local business — it’s not just commerce; it’s also community. Bottletree stood for music and art and creativity and connection, and it represented those things in such a powerful way for so many of us. We’re all sad to lose it.
But many of the beautiful Bottletree tributes I’ve read contain some form of “I haven’t been to Bottletree in months, but …” Well, that’s the thing. We weren’t around. We weren’t buying beers and Viking Funerals and tickets, and that’s the kind of support Bottletree needed. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record (because really, what’s sadder than a broken record), but we’re losing Bottletree in large part because many of us forgot that we need to put our money behind businesses we believe in.
We need to put our money behind the music that we love, the art that we think is important, the communities we want to stick around. Supporting local shops means more than thinking warm feelings — it means buying stuff, too, because as great as local businesses can be for building community, commerce is still a part of their reality.
It’s fantastic to write about what Bottletree has meant to us, in part to show those people who dedicated so much of their lives, who made almost no money for years so that we could enjoy what it had to offer, that their sacrifice mattered. But I hope Bottletree’s closing also inspires us to look at the places we still have and be sure to prioritize eating there, going to shows there, and to share about what they mean to us on social media before they’re about to disappear.
Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.